Free copies of the Gospel of St Luke were handed out. Memorising works of mercy makes it “easier to fulfil them”. As the adulterous woman stood in front of Jesus, they were like “misery and mercy, facing each other,” like us when we go to the confessional. “God does not nail us to our sins; he does not identify us with the wrongs we have done.” Instead, “He wants to free us” so as to make us into “new creatures”.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis gave a copy of the Gospel of St Luke at today's Angelus to all the pilgrims gathered in St Peter's Square with an invitation to "read it every day. This way, the mercy of the Father will dwell in your heart and you will bring it to everyone you meet."
Volunteers from the ‘Santa Marta’ Dispensary in the Vatican and grandfathers and grandmothers handed out the gift. “How deserving are grandfathers and grandmothers who pass on the faith to their grandchildren," said the pontiff.
The Gospel of Luke was chosen because it is called "the Gospel of mercy." In fact, "the Evangelist,” said the pope, “reports the words of Jesus: ‘Be merciful, just as [also] your Father is merciful’ (6:36), which inspired the theme of this Jubilee Year."
The booklet, entitled "The Gospel of Mercy of St Luke", lists the corporal and spiritual works of mercy at the back. "It would be nice if you learnt them by heart,” Francis noted. “This way, it would be easier to fulfil them. I urge you to take this gospel because the mercy of God can work for you."
Previously the Pope commented the Gospel of the Fifth Sunday of Lent (Liturgical Year C: John 8:1-8), which reports the episode of the adulterous woman who is presented to Jesus and whom people want to stone.
"The scene,” Francis explained, “takes place in the temple. Jesus is teaching the people, and here come some scribes and Pharisees, dragging before Him a woman caught in adultery. This woman thus stood between Jesus and the crowd (cf. Jn 8:3), between the mercy of the Son of God and the violence of her accusers.
“In reality, they did not come to the Master to ask for his opinion, but to entrap him. In fact, if Jesus went along with the harshness of the law, approving the woman’s stoning, he would lose his reputation for gentleness and kindness that so fascinated people. If it wanted to be merciful, he would have to go against the law, which he himself said he did not want to abolish, but to fulfil (cf. Mt 5:17) ".
"A bad purpose was behind the question put to Jesus,” the pontiff said. “‘So what do you say?’ (Jn 8:5), [they asked.] Jesus did not answer. He remained silent and did something mysterious; he ‘bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger’ (8:6). In doing so, he was inviting everyone to be calm, not to act out of impulsiveness, but to seek God's justice.
“Yet they insisted and expected an answer from him. So Jesus looked up and said, ‘Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her’ (8:7). Such an answer startled the accusers, disarming them in the true sense of the word: all laid down their ‘weapons’, that is, the stones ready to be thrown, those visible against the woman, and those concealed against Jesus. As the Lord continued to write on the ground, the accusers left one by one, the head down, starting with the older ones, more aware of not being sinless.
"How good it is to know that we are sinners,” said the pontiff without his written text. “How good it is to drop the stones that we have for throwing at others. Let us turn our own minds a bit to our own sins. Only the woman and Jesus were left standing: misery and mercy, facing each other,” Francis said.
“How many times does this happen to us, when we stop in front of the confessional, ashamed, to show our misery and ask for forgiveness . . . 'Woman, where are they? (8:10), Jesus asked her. This recognition is enough, his gaze full of mercy and love, to make that person feel – perhaps for the first time – that she has dignity, that she is not her sin, that she can change her life, that she can leave her bondage and walk on a new path."
"That woman is all of us, sinners, i.e. adulterers before God, betrayers of his loyalty,” Francis said in concluding. “Her experience represents God's will for each of us: not our condemnation, but our salvation through Jesus. He is the grace that saves us from sin and death. He wrote on the ground, in the dust out of which every human being is made (cf. Gen 2:7), God’s judgment: 'I do not want you to die, I want you to live'.
“God does not nail us to our sins; he does not identify us with the wrongs we have done. We have a name and God does not identify this name with the sin we have committed. He wants to free us, and we too want this together with Him. He wants our freedom to convert us from evil to good, and this is possible by his grace. May the Virgin Mary help us entrust ourselves fully to God's mercy, that we may become new creatures."
Francis’ decision came in today’s ordinary public consistory for the canonisation of the blessed. The life of the "little sister" devoted to the poorest of the poor went from a shack in a Kolkata slum to a Nobel Peace Prize and global reach of the Missionaries of Charity.
The saint of Kolkata is a Jubilee icon, and can help promote corporal and spiritual works of mercy. The pope is praised but not understood. For Mother Teresa, as for Francis, the Church "is not an NGO". The Mother is also an example of how to reconcile contemplation and action, sacrament and mission, witness and commitment in the world, rectifying the discrepancies of those who are traditionalist and inward looking as well those who hold shapeless liberal views.
“Where is God? Where is God, if evil is present in our world, if there are men and women who are hungry and thirsty, homeless, exiles and refugees? Where is God, when innocent persons die as a result of violence, terrorism and war?” Yet, “In the face of evil, suffering and sin, the only response possible for a disciple of Jesus is the gift of self, even of one’s own life”. Indeed, "I wish that we, as Christians, could stand by the sick the way Jesus did with silence, a touch, a prayer”. He also called to embrace “our Syrian brothers and sisters, who fled war.”